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A talk with … Emer Roberts

By Mindo - 22nd May 2020

An edgy and elegant luxury fine-art jewellery brand, Emer Roberts Design’s aesthetic evolved with Emer’s exploration of our fellow mammal — the rat. Her unusual, multi-award winning architectural/art deco designs and Wearable Biology designs include the tail and lower jaw of the rat; the latter inspired by the elegant and organic patterns of Art Nouveau. Reimagining chainmail as couture jewellery, the latest of Emer Roberts’s Wearable fine-art designs celebrates the year of the ‘Metal/lic’ Rat with the Wearable Biology — Snout Collection.

Architectural Silver Statement


How has your practice changed over time?

Mould-making and rats were the common denominators that bridged my two disciplines, namely fine art and design. My sculptural practice slowly merged into design as a logical next step to build a creative business doing what I love. 

The rat entered my work 12 years ago, in 2008, when my brother chose to depart this life. 

For my Masters Degree in Fine Art (Sculpture) show in 2009, I recreated Michelangelo’s Pieta with a large-scale sculpture Child and Rat. Prior to this mammoth life event, my practice had revolved around mammal species and the rat was a succinct evolution in processing my grief and my work combined. 

In the following few years, I collaborated on conceptual banquets with food philosophers where projects included casting twice removed rats as edible desserts or skinning, gutting and serving rat meat and conserving the remaining limbs. These would subsequently become the components to designing and creating the Wearable Biology fine jewellery designs.  

I launched Emer Roberts Design in 2017 with architectural and art deco inspired designs, strengthening the brand long-term with diverse styles. 

What are you working on now?

I am expanding upon my Wearable Biology — Snout Collection, now at a relative standstill I might add, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is quite a surreal time. 

Initially creating a blanket of silver snouts with the visual of a shroud in mind, the mood of the jewellery became medieval and transpired into chain mail. What developed for the photoshoot, at the suggestion of the art director, was a reinterpretation of The Meeting on the Turret Stairs painted by Irish painter Frederick William Burton in 1864. This iconic image of chivalrous love depicts Hellelil and Hildebrand’s final embrace.

Merging the movement of rats with the visual representation of a coif or shroud enveloping the head, each snout works collectively as a swarming of rats, echoing their medieval biosphere.  

Deadlines. And originality.   

Wearable Biology – Jaw Collection

Which living person do you most admire, and why?

I have to say, without a doubt, my father Matthias J Roberts. My parents were progressive and achieved a lot. My father’s passion for music was complemented by the economic benefit of a stable job. He is a Dixieland jazzer (still gigs at 82) with a love for the Big Band style and as a Garda Sergeant, was solo clarinet player with the Garda band. Throw in eight kids, a phenomenal amount of animals over the years and more than a few rather large projects that both my folks achieved. His staying power and positive can-do attitude continues to influence and is something to admire.  

Wearable Biology – Snout Silver Ring

What is your proudest accomplishment?

This time last year I scored a hat trick, winning three design awards consecutively. I was awarded ‘Accessories Designer of the Year in Fashion and Textiles’ with IDI (Institute of Designers Ireland), ‘Best Product’ in the jewellery category at Showcase  2019 and ‘Jewellery Designer of the Year’ with the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards.  

Wearable Biology – Snout

I couldn’t possibly live without my work. Thinking visually and working with my hands is part of my everyday.

UPCOMING EVENT: Thurs 17 Sept 2020 – Irish Fashion Innovation Awards Show – Nominated Jewellery Designer of the Year

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